Bishop Wright: 0:00
One thing to tell people to read the Bible. It’s an all together more vivid thing for them to meet the stories when they meet you. What does the church have to offer a terribly fractured world? Well, people actively on their journey to close the gap between their Sunday singing and their Monday living. That’s what we have to offer, not perfection, just actively on the journey to close the gap.
This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright. Hi listeners, welcome to For People. This is your producer, Easton Davis, bringing you a special episode this week. Bishop Wright is currently in Kenya representing our diocese with Habitat for Humanity International as a board member. This week we bring you Bishop Wright’s sermon given at the 117th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta, the annual gathering of more than 500 people from across the diocese. Thanks for listening and share this episode with a friend.
Bishop Wright: 1:11
Greetings to all of you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters and siblings to be together. The psalmist says it’s like a beautifully fragrant oil running down from the top of our heads to the edges of our garments. That’s how I feel this morning. It feels good to be together. Welcome to the 117th annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta. From the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to St John and the sixth verse, we hear Jesus pose a life-changing question to an individual. Here’s the question Would you be made whole? This story, I confess, is one of my favorites. It’s about wholeness and healing in the coming together of word and deed, lips and lives. John tells us that Jesus walks through a gaggle of people only to make his way to a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Think of him as maybe the senior warden of this congregation. Maybe he and his congregation have a diversity of maladies. They’ve all come to this place and to these pools because the pools are pregnant with possibility. An angel visits these pools regularly, stirs the water and people are made whole and sent back into the world On any given day. This community is within minutes and inches of their healing blessings. And are we any different? Now here comes the poet laureate of Nazareth, and this morning he’s got a question, a direct question all cake, no icing, Would you be made? Well, what a loving question, Because it seeks to activate agency and create capacity more than just generate a simple answer. I like this question for this man, I like this question for us individually sitting here, and I like this question for our congregations and for our ministries together. Would we be made whole? What is wholeness? Anyway, Thank you for your question. One definition is that, one definition that is within our reach this morning comes from the daily office of all places morning prayer. Read the general thanksgiving slowly and you will get a glimpse of wholeness from these familiar words Poat and we pray. Give us such an awareness of your mercies that, with truly thankful hearts, we may show forth your praise not only with our but in our. This is going to be a good day today. Let me say that another way we mean the innumerable mercies of God in our own lives, that our own addresses, and experiencing the subsequent swelling of gratitude in our hearts. Our mouths fill with the praises of God and because the author of that prayer seems to know us well. The author goes the extra mile to connect praise of our lips with praise evidenced by our living. What did the authors of this prayer know? They know that wholeness and wellness come from alignment alignment of our lips with our lives. Wholeness is getting your mind and your behind, as I like to say, in line. It is to live the words we pray. More than that, it is to be the words we pray. Wholeness is to be the stories of Jesus from Carleton to Covington, from Hartwell to Macon and beyond. It’s one thing to tell people to read the Bible. It’s an altogether more vivid thing for them to meet the stories when they meet you. What does the church have to offer a terribly fractured world? Well, people actively on their journey to close the gap between their Sunday singing and their Monday living. That’s what we have to offer, Not perfection, just actively on the journey to close the gap. Question so what can we do today? Answer For ourselves, yet again, to Jesus and to the medicine of his stories and his invitations. That’s what we can do. Would you behold Jesus’ ask and the man’s responses startingly familiar. He doesn’t say yes, Lord, like other stories in the Bible. He doesn’t even say what most Episcopalians say. When you ask them a straight question Between Bishop to Jesus, to Jesus’ catalytic question, this man offers his past experiences, which now have become his present excuses. What do we know about excuses made too often and too long? Here’s what we know. We know they calcify and they paralyze. Langston Hughes asked the question what happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? First the man blames the labor market. I want to be whole, he implies, but I can’t find anyone to bring me to the healing water. Then he blames the competition for being more effective in getting into the water. Finally, he blames scarcity. By the time I get to the water, there’s no more room for me to be blessed. I have heard modern versions of each of these in our churches over my almost three decades. How about you? But I have to say you have to love Jesus’ approach to these kinds of responses that we give to Jesus. When Jesus asks his direct questions, he’s never distracted, always focused. Listen. The compassion Jesus offers to this man is energy for breaking pathologies, confronting adaptive inflexibility and unsticking was stuck. What we love about Jesus is also what we actively resist about Jesus? Am I the only one? His loving insistence? Jesus insists that we are more than our estimation of ourselves, that we are more than our wounds. He insists that there is more vitality and abundance possible. Jesus’ love in this story for us, for this man, is to hold on to and hold out for us a version of ourselves that resists our own self-sabotage. Jesus’ question is an escape hatch from the numbness and malaise and cynicism that seeks to steal agency from us and wants to reduce us to bystanders when the blessings are right there. That’s a whole lot for nine o’clock in the morning, ain’t it? Just you wait. Bear in mind, beloved, the journey to wholeness is not microwave popcorn. The first step in allowing Jesus’ words to bring calm and direction to the traffic of our minds, First step let His words win the day. Jesus interrupts this man’s litany of excuses and gives him three simple instructions Rise, take up your mat and walk. That’s it, simple formula. Most of Jesus’ instructions are simple, relatively speaking. Wholeness enters the soul first through consent and then it multiplies itself through compliance. Pay attention at the baptismal covenant today. Consent, compliance, yes, again, Lord. So we have to congratulate this brother of long ago. His consent to Jesus is wordless, but his compliance to Jesus’ invitation is wonder-making. He rises, he’s made whole, his body is transformed from a sad question mark into a human exclamation point. What we are left to wonder, in the final analysis, is this Was this man’s infirmity ever actually in his limbs, or was it always in his attitude? From Jesus’ lips to this man’s life, wholeness is born. Isn’t the same available to us? A thousand years ago, Wendy, I was a school chaplain it seems like a thousand years ago and I remember leading chapel and going on about some story from Scripture to my first and second graders. You ain’t preached till you preach to first and second graders. I want you to know that this is easy in comparison. Towards the end of my little half-baked homily, some sweet little somebody raised their hand and asked me a question. She said Chaplain, right, how come God did all the really cool stuff a long time ago? Now, that’s a question I bring it up because some of us may be harboring a version of that question this morning, Especially given the state of the church and the world. How come God did all the really cool stuff back then? Well, if you’re harboring that question this morning, I say this to you Listen again to the writer of Hebrews. Long ago, after Jesus did this cool thing at this pool with this man, the followers of Jesus updated his invitation to wholeness. Now, rather than the individual prescription for an individual rise, take up your mat and walk. The communal prescription for wholeness is simple. It’s this Fill your mouths with the praise of God, Share what you have Never neglect to do good. Praise, share and do good. If you want to tweet something, tweet that Praise, share and do good. That is the stuff that makes God smile. Praise and share and do good. You want to see God do more cool stuff? Praise and share and do good. And just you watch. Just you watch. Said another way Taste and see that the Lord is good. And as I taste and see that the Lord is good, here’s what I find myself saying. I will bless the Lord at all times. God’s praise shall continually be in my mouth. I will glory in the Lord. The humble. The humble will hear and rejoice, To consent and comply with the reality that we are one church planted in middle and north Georgia. To praise God, to share and do good together will animate our limbs at our various locations. That’s the way forward Praise, share and do good. It’s the best technology to meet the demands of this age. It always was. It’s true now. Praise, share and do good are measurable and deliverable and they are the best indicators of health. That is our call, and it doesn’t change with fluctuations in ASA or budget bottom lines. It doesn’t change, it hadn’t changed in 2000 years. That is still the work for us. At times like this, I recall the words of James Baldwin, that herald of Harlem, New York. Baldwin says this love has never been a popular movement and no one really wants to be free. The world is held together, he says. Really it is by the love and passion of a few people. I still believe we can be those people. So then, if you believe, like I do, why not recommit yourselves this morning, your lips, your lives, yourselves, your souls, your bodies, as we say in the Episcopal Church, To Jesus’ prescription for wholeness praise, share and do good. I will bless the Lord at all times. God’s praise shall continually be in my mouth.